Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Islamic State fundamentalist group has claimed responsibility for the beheading of Peter Kassig, an American hostage and aid worker, describing him in a video of his murder as "the first American crusader." Earlier, the same video shows the beheading of at least 18 Syrian soldiers.
Unlike the previous video, the film does not show the beheading of Westerner, but a man dressed in black standing near a severed head, shouting out a message of defiance: " This is Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen...Here we are burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, [a city in northern Syria]eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive".
According to experts, the voice seems to be to "Jihadi
John", the same man who decapitated the two US journalists James Foley and
Steven Sotloff in previous videos.
Kassig Peter, 26, is the third American to suffer beheading. Two British nationals, Alan Henning and David Haines, also suffered beheadings. As with these two, Kassig was an aid worker who finished his military service in Iraq in 2007, in 2012 he had found his "vocation" - as he himself describes it - in founding a humanitarian organization which offered medical care to Syrian refugees.
Kassig had also converted to Islam, taking the name of Abdul-Rahman. In 2013, he was kidnapped and detained in Syria by jihadists.
A Syrian friend of Kassig, Burhane Moussa Agha, 29, remembers him as someone "who helped the Syrians giving all that he had. He left everything, his family, his life in America to help people. He was not afraid. Peter was a hero. "
In 2012, when he decided to found the Special Emergency Response and Assistance (SERA), Kassig had written to his family announcing that they would remain in Syria: "I have always tried to live my life according to what I have been taught to believe in but the truth is that I never really found what I was looking for. Here, in this country, I have finally found my calling".
Ed and Paula, his parents - who
had made several appeals for his release - said: " We are incredibly proud
of our son for living his life according to his humanitarian calling. We will
work every day to keep his legacy alive as best we can".
Before the sequence that shows Kassig decapitated, the video has a perfectly choreographed scene of 18 men in a row each accompanied by a member of the IS. One by one, they take a knife and force their victim to kneel down and then proceed with the decapitation.
"Today - says a militant dressed in black - we're killing soldiers of Bashar. Tomorrow we will kill your soldiers. And by the will of Allah, we will destroy this last crusade, and the Islamic State ... will begin to kill your people in your streets".
The video was released just as the IS is suffering some setbacks in Iraq.